Date of Award

Fall 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre

Second Advisor

Orlov, Andrei

Third Advisor

Kurz, William


Anyone who has been through a Scripture class with Fr. William Kurz will remember the mayhem at the beginning of the course that accompanies the decisions regarding who will get which Scripture passage as the topic for their papers. I was in Fr. Kurz's class on Johannine literature and the passage in John's Gospel in which Jesus meets Nathanael (John 1:45-51) came up for grabs. Since I had not chosen a passage yet, and since no one else wanted that passage, I decided to take it. In part, I think my attraction to that passage was simply that Nathanael is my namesake. I have sometimes said in answer to the question, "How did you choose your dissertation topic?" that it came about because I was sitting in class thinking about myself. (One is always forced to say either too much or too little in answer to this question! As is often the case, the best way out of the dilemma is making a joke.) Thankfully it led to a much richer and more interesting topic. As I soon discovered, scholars had for a long time seen that the key to this passage in John was in its allusions to the story of the patriarch Jacob in Genesis: Nathanael is without guile; Jacob is said to have guile. Those who believe like Nathanael will see the angels of God ascending and descending; Jacob does see the angels of God ascending and descending. And so on. While re-reading the story of Jacob in Genesis for this paper on John, I became fascinated by this very complex character-Jacob, arguably the most complex character in the whole Old Testament. One episode in Jacob's life seemed particularly important to me the vow he makes after the Lord appears to him in a dream and gives him the promises he had given to Abraham (Gen 28:20-22). This vow was unlike anything else I had come across in the patriarchal narratives, possibly even in the whole Bible. Did Jacob really mean what he said-the Lord would be his God only if the conditions Jacob had laid down were met? When does Jacob take the God of his fathers to be his own God? Thus began the first of many sleepless but wonder-filled nights as I tried to track down the answer to these questions in the story of Jacob in Genesis...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?